CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada has been cleared to play the remainder of the test series against Australia having won his appeal against a Level Two breach of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) code of conduct.
Rabada had his punishment for brushing against the shoulder of Australia captain Steven Smith in the second test in Port Elizabeth reduced from a fine of 50 percent of his match fee and three demerit points, to 25 percent and one demerit point.
He, however, was found guilty of a lesser charge of “conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game” on appeal by Judicial Commissioner Michael Heron, according to a statement from the ICC on Tuesday.
That leaves Rabada’s total of demerit points over the last 24 months on seven, one fewer than the threshold that would trigger an automatic two-match suspension. He received a demerit point for a send-off to Australian opener David Warner in the same game.
Currently the top ranked test bowler in the world, Rabada is free to play the third test that starts in Cape Town on Thursday, with the tempestuous four-match series square at 1-1.
The 22-year-old admitted he needed to tone down his wicket celebrations in the wake of the Smith incident but maintained that the contact with Smith was accidental and he had not intended to brush against the batsman.
Match referee Jeff Crowe believed otherwise when imposing the initial punishment, but that has now been overturned after Cricket South Africa engaged the services of high-profile local advocate Dali Mpofu to fight Rabada’s case in an appeal hearing that took place on Monday.
“The key issue is whether Mr Rabada made ‘inappropriate and deliberate physical contact’ with Mr Smith. I am not ‘comfortably satisfied’ that Mr Rabada intended to make contact and I therefore find him not guilty of the charge...,” Heron said in the summary of his verdict.
“I am entitled, however, to consider whether the conduct involved constitutes a lower level offence. I consider the conduct was inappropriate, lacked respect for his fellow player and involved non-deliberate and minor contact. The actions contravened the principle that a dismissed batsman should be left alone.
“I consider a penalty of the imposition of a fine of 25 percent of the applicable match fee to be the appropriate penalty for the breach of Article 2.1.1.
“As a consequence, 1 demerit point accrues. Mr. Rabada will be well aware of the consequences of any further breaches of the code.”
Rabada has taken 15 wickets in the series so far at an average of 16.80, the most successful bowler from either side.
Reporting By Nick Said; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty